Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy)

Scientific Name

Papaver somniferum L.

Common Names

Opium Poppy, Breadseed Poppy

Scientific Classification

Family: Papaveraceae
Subfamily: Papaveroideae
Tribe: Papavereae
Genus: Papaver


Color: White, mauve, or red
Bloom Time: June to August


Papaver somniferum is an annual herb that grows up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall. It is strongly glaucous, giving a grayish-green appearance. The stem and leaves are sparsely covered with coarse hairs. Leaves are large, lobed, and clasp the stem at the base. It blooms between June and August. Flowers are up to 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, normally with four white, mauve, or red petals, sometimes with dark markings at the base. The fruit is a hairless, rounded capsule topped with 12 to 18 radiating stigmatic rays or a fluted cap.

Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy)
Photo via wikimedia


Papaver somniferum is grown as an annual plant, so it has no USDA hardiness zone.

How to Grow and Care

Plant Corn Poppy seeds directly on top of cultivated soil. In mild climates, plant the seeds in late fall or early spring when soil temperatures are between 60 and 70 ºF (15 and 21 ºC). Corn Poppies thrive in full sunlight and rich, well-drained soil. If the soil is poor, incorporate 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of compost or manure before planting.

Water Corn Poppies when the top of the soil feels dry. Saturate the root zone thoroughly, as shallow waterings promote a shallow root system. For best results, water by hand with a hose or use a drip system to keep the foliage as dry as possible. If you use a sprinkler, water early in the day, so the foliage has time to dry before evening. Soggy soil and damp foliage place the plant at risk of rot and fungal diseases.

Spread 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of mulch around the plants in the spring. An organic mulch such as shredded leaves or dry grass clippings keeps the roots cool, conserves moisture, and prevents weeds' growth.

Apply a balanced liquid or granular fertilizer if newly emerging foliage has a yellowish appearance. Use the fertilizer following label recommendations. As a general rule, Poppies require no supplemental fertilization if granular fertilizer or compost are incorporated into the soil at planting time. See more at: How to Grow and Care for Corn Poppy


Its native range is probably the eastern Mediterranean but is now obscured by ancient introductions and cultivation.


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